Back-tracking a little bit, the group and I went on a breath-taking hike yesterday led by no other than the amazing Hans! He lead us up into the mountains all the way to a summit, stopping along the way for two wonderful meals and to explain what everything (plants, animals, history, geography, statistics, elevation levels, etc.) was. I can definitely say that Hans is one of the most intelligent people I've ever met, he has so much knowledge to share and the others and I did our best to soak it all in yesterday. He also explained a lot about the difference between work ethics and attitudes in the US and Germany and it really hit home for me.
In the US we have this seemingly obsession with productivity. Whether it's filling every hour of our days with something "productive" to do, or only having one week off of work a year, not including sick days. It's starting to seem to me that we Americans are creating more problems than we're solving. We're sacrificing our health for our jobs. I thought it was amazing to hear how much Germany cares about the work environment and mental health of its people. From what I can understand, Germans get much more time off of work, a hefty amount of maternity leave, and job assurance if they need to take more time off for personal reasons. Whereas in the US, most people would consider all of those things as unproductive or unnecessary. I apologize for the random tangent, but I've just been learning so much about myself over the past week and what I truly value. It sounds like a stretch for being on a trip, but I pretty confident that I'll come back as a difference person after this entire experience; for the better, I might add. Hans told us a quote in german and unfortunately I forgot exactly what it was, however it went something like this, "You truly become yourself when you travel." Needless to say, I'm excited to find out more about myself in the coming days.